Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • A Focus on Women and AIDS: Nationally and Abroad

    “When black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more."  --President Obama, December 1, 2011

    December 1 marked World AIDS Day, a time to remember those that have been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past 30 years. Today, we must also continue to recognize and push forth the efforts to aid individuals affected across the globe. In recent years, we have seen success in programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, but we must remember the toll this disease takes on our women, and ultimately our communities. Although rates of HIV/AIDS have been decreasing across many countries, there are many factors that have kept women and girls at risk. Globally, many prevention efforts and treatments still need to be successfully implemented in order to change uneven progress in the health of the world’s women and girls. With the world facing many battles, young women in many parts of the world are still becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. As of today, HIV is the leading cause of death and disease among women aged 15 to 49 years worldwide. Domestically, rates in many communities continue to effect women disproportionately, in better words: we’ve got to do more. President Obama and his Administration are committed to solving the AIDS crisis; an epidemic that has put women, and their families, at great risk.

    During his speech at an event called “The Beginning of the End of AIDS,” at George Washington University, marking World AIDS Day, the President announced that the Administration is directing $50 million in increased funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment and care. The data shows a clear need for this increase in funding.  According to 2009 HIV surveillance data by the Centers for Disease Control, women represented 24% of all diagnoses of HIV infection among United States (US) adults and adolescents in 40 states. Black and Latina women are disproportionately affected at all stages of HIV infection compared with women of other races/ethnicities. At some point in her lifetime, 1 in 139 women will be diagnosed with HIV infection; with Black and Hispanic/Latina women at higher risk than women of other races/ethnicity.

    Over the past several years, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic has been met with increasing efforts across the international community and shown great potential. As stated by the Office of Women’s Health, numerous initiatives to promote prevention and treatment efforts have been implemented by governments and organizations worldwide. They have also noted that, in 33 countries, HIV incidence has dropped by more than 25 percent over the past decade; 22 of those countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. Even with these improvements, we must remember that challenges still remain.

  • A Student's Clear Lesson on Clean Air

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Naomi Shah, the sixteen-year-old winner of the Google science fair for her project focusing on the effects of air quality on asthma, and the importance of clean air in ensuring human health.

    After watching both my dad and brother suffer from chronic allergies year-round, I was driven to find out why their symptoms persisted well past the pollen season. I started researching and found that the culprit was indoor air pollutants, which can also be influenced by outdoor air pollutants. I also discovered that people spend more than 90 percent of their lives indoors, and that the economic burden of asthma exceeds that of AIDS and Tuberculosis combined.

    As soon as I realized this, I found myself investigating the underlying relationship between four pollutants and the lung health of asthmatic patients. At first, I just wanted to find out which pollutants had the biggest impact on lung health. But soon after, I developed a novel mathematical model which can be used by doctors and environmental specialists to quantify the effect of the pollutants on the lung function as measured by the peak expiratory flow rate-- which is essentially how much a person can breathe out in one breath.

    What surprised me is that no model currently quantifies this relationship between environmental pollutants and lung health. I independently designed experimental methods that are scientific and HIPPA compliant and I studied the air quality and lung health in over 100 human test subjects in the Portland-metro area. Identifying which pollutants impact them the most can improve treatment and target remediation efforts.

  • Recruiting and Retaining Women in STEM

    On December 9th at 3:30pm, the White House will honor individuals who help to recruit and retain “Women in STEM,” or Science-Technology-Engineering-and Math, as this week's “Champions of Change.”

    President Obama has made it a priority to recruit and retain women in STEM in his Administration as well. Leading up to this Friday’s event, we will be featuring a number of key women in STEM in the Obama Administration, beginning with our fantastic EPA Administrator (and Engineer!), Lisa Jackson.

    Lisa Jackson

    Since being named President Obama’s cabinet member in charge of environmental protection, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has been named one Newsweek’s “Most Important People in 2010,” featured on Time Magazine’s 2010 and 2011 lists of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”, listed in Essence Magazine’s “40 Women Who Have Influenced the World,” and profiled in O Magazine for her work to protect our nation’s air, water and land from pollution that threatens human health.

    Jackson leads EPA’s efforts to protect the health and environment for all Americans. She and a staff of more than 18,000 professionals are working across the nation to usher in a green economy, address health threats from pollution in our air, water and land, and renew the public’s trust in EPA’s work.

    Background: From New Orleans to New Jersey

    Raised a proud resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, Administrator Jackson is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University and earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University. In 2011, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Florida A&M University. She has also received an honorary law degree from Pace Law School.

    She started with the EPA as a staff-level scientist in 1987 and spent the majority of her career working in EPA’s Region 2 office in New York. In 2002, Jackson joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and was appointed Commissioner of the agency in 2006.

  • Council on Women and Girls Weekly Highlights: Payroll Tax Cut for Families

    Welcome to the Council on Women and Girls Weekly Highlights. If you have friends or family who would like to support the efforts of the Council on Women and Girls, please visit our website and share this link with others on Facebook and Twitter.

    President Obama traveled to Scranton, PA yesterday to talk about an issue that impacts millions of women and families across the country – the extension of the payroll tax cut. It sounds like another wonky issue, but this one has the potential to hit all of our pocketbooks. If Congress doesn’t vote to extend the current payroll tax cut, taxes will go up for millions of Americans. For a typical family earning $50,000 a year, that means a $1,000 tax increase.

    If Congress passes President Obama’s plan, that same family would keep that $1,000 in their family budget and add $500 additional dollars, for a total tax cut of $1,500. Find out what this means for you by using our Tax Calculator and check out some new state-by-state data from the U.S. Treasury Department. 

    In addition, today we commemorate World AIDS Day. President Obama spoke at ONE Campaign and (RED)'s Beginning of the End of AIDS event at George Washington University, and you can find information below on how to participate in our Open for Questions online session "The Beginning of the End of AIDS."

  • Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act

    Today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

    First championed in 1994 by then-Senator Biden, VAWA transformed the nation’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault. VAWA has provided funding to states and local communities to develop specialized law enforcement units, provide services to victims, and improve prosecution of these crimes. Since the passage of the Act, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped by more than 50%.

    While tremendous progress has been made, violence is still a significant problem facing women, men, families, and communities.  Three women die every day at the hands of husbands or boyfriends. Domestic violence causes two million injuries a year to women and untold amounts of human suffering. Domestic violence shelters are still full, hotlines are ringing, and for every victim who has come forward, many more are suffering alone. And it’s the nation’s youth who are most at risk – young women between the ages of 16-24 suffer from the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault.

  • Supporting Small Businesses by 'Shopping Small'

    Over the weekend, I joined President Obama and millions of Americans, who participated in the second annual Small Business Saturday. I visited several stores in the neighborhood where I grew up in Chicago, including Chant, Freehling Pot and Pan, and 57th St. Books.  

    I got a head start on my holiday shopping, and I was able to support the small businesses that are the backbone of my neighborhood and the economic engine of our country. In neighborhoods all across America, small businesses are creating two out of three of our new jobs. Their owners and employees are our neighbors, our family members, and our friends. They give back to our communities each and every day.

    I am proud to be part of an Administration that supports small businesses every single day of the year. Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law 18 tax cuts for small businesses. He has helped create partnerships such as Startup America to help our nation’s entrepreneurs succeed. He has also taken executive action to speed payments to small businesses as part of the We Can’t Wait initiative.

    As we face the effects of an unprecedented economic crisis, and the deep recession that followed, President Obama understands the size and scope of the challenges that small business owners still face. That is why the American Jobs Act included new rounds of tax cuts for small businesses. It is also one of the reasons President Obama is urging Congress to pass a payroll tax cut that would give the average American family $1,500 more to spend next year.

    There’s no question that our country continues to face enormous challenges. But Small Business Saturday was a reminder that if we each do our part, we will overcome our challenges. As the President put it, “Through events such as Small Business Saturday, we keep our local economies strong and help maintain an American economy that can compete and win in the 21st century.”